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Cat-scratch disease: Why cuddling a kitten could actually kill you


(NaturalNews) Pets can enhance people's lives in a number of very positive ways, such as by providing companionship, reducing stress and even improving their overall health. However, for a few unlucky people, cuddling their precious cat could lead to a life-threatening infection.

While most people have heard of "cat scratch fever," few people are aware that the condition, which is also referred to as cat-scratch disease, can actually be fatal if left unchecked. It is caused by bacteria and is passed between cats via fleas. Despite the name, getting scratched or bitten by an infected cat is not the only way to contract the illness; nuzzling or kissing your feline friend can be enough for it to take hold. It can also be spread when a cat licks a human's open wound.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that around 40 percent of cats will carry the bacteria that causes this disease at some point in their life. Carrying this illness will not make a cat sick, but it can cause a high fever, headache and exhaustion in people. Between three and 14 days after exposure the infected area could appear swollen, and raised lesions or pustules might appear.

Data from health insurance claims made during the period from 2005 to 2013 shows that around 12,000 people are diagnosed with the illness each year, with around 500 people being hospitalized with it annually.

According to a comprehensive survey by the CDC, kittens and stray cats are particularly vulnerable to the illness. The CDC also found that the scope of the illness to be greater than they initially believed. The study encompassed eight years and more than 13,000 cases of cat-scratch disease. The yearly incidence of 4.5 diagnoses per 100,000 population, despite being higher than they expected, is still somewhat rare overall. While just a few of these cases proved to be fatal, delays in seeking medical treatment were a big factor.

Tips for preventing cat-scratch disease

Thankfully, cat-scratch fever can be prevented with relative ease. Doctors recommend that cat owners wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after touching their pet and keep their cats away from strays. If you are scratched or bitten by a cat be sure to clean the area immediately. Do not allow cats to lick you on any part of your body that has an open wound, and be sure to trim their claws regularly to help minimize the chances of scratching.

The group most at risk is children between the ages of 5 and 9; this group showed a rate of 9.4 diagnoses per 100,000 population. Parents should discourage children from playing rough and kissing kittens, and instruct them never to approach a stray cat.

Cat-scratch illness is also more likely to occur in warmer areas, where fleas reproduce and spread more readily. Fleas thrive during hot and humid weather, but fall is also a risky time, as heating systems serve as the ideal environment for hatching dormant eggs.

Getting rid of fleas naturally

One of the best ways to prevent the spread of the disease is by protecting cats from fleas. There are a number of great natural methods that can allow you to accomplish this without exposing your beloved pet or your household to toxic chemicals. One effective method involves giving your cat a bath that contains a small amount of an acidic liquid such as lemon juice, vinegar or apple cider. Some people also turn to natural diatomaceous earth to deal with flea problems.

Cat owners do not need to be alarmed, but they should keep this possibility in mind and do everything in their power to minimize the risks.

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